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2019


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On the Transfer of Inductive Bias from Simulation to the Real World: a New Disentanglement Dataset

Gondal, M. W., Wuthrich, M., Miladinovic, D., Locatello, F., Breidt, M., Volchkov, V., Akpo, J., Bachem, O., Schölkopf, B., Bauer, S.

Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32, pages: 15714-15725, (Editors: H. Wallach and H. Larochelle and A. Beygelzimer and F. d’Alché-Buc and E. Fox and R. Garnett), Curran Associates, Inc., 33rd Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, December 2019 (conference)

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link (url) [BibTex]

2019


link (url) [BibTex]


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Interactive Augmented Reality for Robot-Assisted Surgery

Forte, M. P., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Workshop extended abstract presented as a podium presentation at the IROS Workshop on Legacy Disruptors in Applied Telerobotics, Macau, November 2019 (misc) Accepted

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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High-Fidelity Multiphysics Finite Element Modeling of Finger-Surface Interactions with Tactile Feedback

Serhat, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (2 pages) presented at the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), Tokyo, Japan, July 2019 (misc)

Abstract
In this study, we develop a high-fidelity finite element (FE) analysis framework that enables multiphysics simulation of the human finger in contact with a surface that is providing tactile feedback. We aim to elucidate a variety of physical interactions that can occur at finger-surface interfaces, including contact, friction, vibration, and electrovibration. We also develop novel FE-based methods that will allow prediction of nonconventional features such as real finger-surface contact area and finger stickiness. We envision using the developed computational tools for efficient design and optimization of haptic devices by replacing expensive and lengthy experimental procedures with high-fidelity simulation.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Fingertip Friction Enhances Perception of Normal Force Changes

Gueorguiev, D., Lambert, J., Thonnard, J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (2 pages) presented at the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), Tokyo, Japan, July 2019 (misc)

Abstract
Using a force-controlled robotic platform, we tested the human perception of positive and negative modulations in normal force during passive dynamic touch, which also induced a strong related change in the finger-surface lateral force. In a two-alternative forced-choice task, eleven participants had to detect brief variations in the normal force compared to a constant controlled pre-stimulation force of 1 N and report whether it had increased or decreased. The average 75% just noticeable difference (JND) was found to be around 0.25 N for detecting the peak change and 0.30 N for correctly reporting the increase or the decrease. Interestingly, the friction coefficient of a subject’s fingertip positively correlated with his or her performance at detecting the change and reporting its direction, which suggests that humans may use the lateral force as a sensory cue to perceive variations in the normal force.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Objective and Subjective Assessment of Algorithms for Reducing Three-Axis Vibrations to One-Axis Vibrations
Objective and Subjective Assessment of Algorithms for Reducing Three-Axis Vibrations to One-Axis Vibrations

Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE World Haptics Conference, pages: 467-472, July 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
A typical approach to creating realistic vibrotactile feedback is reducing 3D vibrations recorded by an accelerometer to 1D signals that can be played back on a haptic actuator, but some of the information is often lost in this dimensional reduction process. This paper describes seven representative algorithms and proposes four metrics based on the spectral match, the temporal match, and the average value and the variability of them across 3D rotations. These four performance metrics were applied to four texture recordings, and the method utilizing the discrete fourier transform (DFT) was found to be the best regardless of the sensing axis. We also recruited 16 participants to assess the perceptual similarity achieved by each algorithm in real time. We found the four metrics correlated well with the subjectively rated similarities for the six dimensional reduction algorithms, with the exception of taking the 3D vector magnitude, which was perceived to be good despite its low spectral and temporal match metrics.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Inflatable Haptic Sensor for the Torso of a Hugging Robot
Inflatable Haptic Sensor for the Torso of a Hugging Robot

Block, A. E., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (2 pages) presented at the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), Tokyo, Japan, July 2019 (misc)

Abstract
During hugs, humans naturally provide and intuit subtle non-verbal cues that signify the strength and duration of an exchanged hug. Personal preferences for this close interaction may vary greatly between people; robots do not currently have the abilities to perceive or understand these preferences. This work-in-progress paper discusses designing, building, and testing a novel inflatable torso that can simultaneously soften a robot and act as a tactile sensor to enable more natural and responsive hugging. Using PVC vinyl, a microphone, and a barometric pressure sensor, we created a small test chamber to demonstrate a proof of concept for the full torso. While contacting the chamber in several ways common in hugs (pat, squeeze, scratch, and rub), we recorded data from the two sensors. The preliminary results suggest that the complementary haptic sensing channels allow us to detect coarse and fine contacts typically experienced during hugs, regardless of user hand placement.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


Understanding the Pull-off Force of the Human Fingerpad
Understanding the Pull-off Force of the Human Fingerpad

Nam, S., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Work-in-progress paper (2 pages) presented at the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), Tokyo, Japan, July 2019 (misc)

Abstract
To understand the adhesive force that occurs when a finger pulls off of a smooth surface, we built an apparatus to measure the fingerpad’s moisture, normal force, and real contact area over time during interactions with a glass plate. We recorded a total of 450 trials (45 interactions by each of ten human subjects), capturing a wide range of values across the aforementioned variables. The experimental results showed that the pull-off force increases with larger finger contact area and faster detachment rate. Additionally, moisture generally increases the contact area of the finger, but too much moisture can restrict the increase in the pull-off force.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


The Haptician and the Alphamonsters
The Haptician and the Alphamonsters

Forte, M. P., L’Orsa, R., Mohan, M., Nam, S., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Student Innovation Challenge on Implementing Haptics in Virtual Reality Environment presented at the IEEE World Haptics Conference, Tokyo, Japan, July 2019, Maria Paola Forte, Rachael L'Orsa, Mayumi Mohan, and Saekwang Nam contributed equally to this publication (misc)

Abstract
Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder characterized by writing disabilities that affects between 7% and 15% of children. It presents itself in the form of unfinished letters, letter distortion, inconsistent letter size, letter collision, etc. Traditional therapeutic exercises require continuous assistance from teachers or occupational therapists. Autonomous partial or full haptic guidance can produce positive results, but children often become bored with the repetitive nature of such activities. Conversely, virtual rehabilitation with video games represents a new frontier for occupational therapy due to its highly motivational nature. Virtual reality (VR) adds an element of novelty and entertainment to therapy, thus motivating players to perform exercises more regularly. We propose leveraging the HTC VIVE Pro and the EXOS Wrist DK2 to create an immersive spellcasting “exergame” (exercise game) that helps motivate children with dysgraphia to improve writing fluency.

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Student Innovation Challenge – Virtual Reality [BibTex]

Student Innovation Challenge – Virtual Reality [BibTex]


Fingertip Interaction Metrics Correlate with Visual and Haptic Perception of Real Surfaces
Fingertip Interaction Metrics Correlate with Visual and Haptic Perception of Real Surfaces

Vardar, Y., Wallraven, C., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE World Haptics Conference (WHC), pages: 395-400, Tokyo, Japan, July 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Both vision and touch contribute to the perception of real surfaces. Although there have been many studies on the individual contributions of each sense, it is still unclear how each modality’s information is processed and integrated. To fill this gap, we investigated the similarity of visual and haptic perceptual spaces, as well as how well they each correlate with fingertip interaction metrics. Twenty participants interacted with ten different surfaces from the Penn Haptic Texture Toolkit by either looking at or touching them and judged their similarity in pairs. By analyzing the resulting similarity ratings using multi-dimensional scaling (MDS), we found that surfaces are similarly organized within the three-dimensional perceptual spaces of both modalities. Also, between-participant correlations were significantly higher in the haptic condition. In a separate experiment, we obtained the contact forces and accelerations acting on one finger interacting with each surface in a controlled way. We analyzed the collected fingertip interaction data in both the time and frequency domains. Our results suggest that the three perceptual dimensions for each modality can be represented by roughness/smoothness, hardness/softness, and friction, and that these dimensions can be estimated by surface vibration power, tap spectral centroid, and kinetic friction coefficient, respectively.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Implementation of a 6-{DOF} Parallel Continuum Manipulator for Delivering Fingertip Tactile Cues
Implementation of a 6-DOF Parallel Continuum Manipulator for Delivering Fingertip Tactile Cues

Young, E. M., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 12(3):295-306, June 2019 (article)

Abstract
Existing fingertip haptic devices can deliver different subsets of tactile cues in a compact package, but we have not yet seen a wearable six-degree-of-freedom (6-DOF) display. This paper presents the Fuppeteer (short for Fingertip Puppeteer), a device that is capable of controlling the position and orientation of a flat platform, such that any combination of normal and shear force can be delivered at any location on any human fingertip. We build on our previous work of designing a parallel continuum manipulator for fingertip haptics by presenting a motorized version in which six flexible Nitinol wires are actuated via independent roller mechanisms and proportional-derivative controllers. We evaluate the settling time and end-effector vibrations observed during system responses to step inputs. After creating a six-dimensional lookup table and adjusting simulated inputs using measured Jacobians, we show that the device can make contact with all parts of the fingertip with a mean error of 1.42 mm. Finally, we present results from a human-subject study. A total of 24 users discerned 9 evenly distributed contact locations with an average accuracy of 80.5%. Translational and rotational shear cues were identified reasonably well near the center of the fingertip and more poorly around the edges.

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DOI [BibTex]


Explorations of Shape-Changing Haptic Interfaces for Blind and Sighted Pedestrian Navigation
Explorations of Shape-Changing Haptic Interfaces for Blind and Sighted Pedestrian Navigation

Spiers, A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

pages: 6, Workshop paper (6 pages) presented at the CHI 2019 Workshop on Hacking Blind Navigation, May 2019 (misc) Accepted

Abstract
Since the 1960s, technologists have worked to develop systems that facilitate independent navigation by vision-impaired (VI) pedestrians. These devices vary in terms of conveyed information and feedback modality. Unfortunately, many such prototypes never progress beyond laboratory testing. Conversely, smartphone-based navigation systems for sighted pedestrians have grown in robustness and capabilities, to the point of now being ubiquitous. How can we leverage the success of sighted navigation technology, which is driven by a larger global market, as a way to progress VI navigation systems? We believe one possibility is to make common devices that benefit both VI and sighted individuals, by providing information in a way that does not distract either user from their tasks or environment. To this end we have developed physical interfaces that eschew visual, audio or vibratory feedback, instead relying on the natural human ability to perceive the shape of a handheld object.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Internal Array Electrodes Improve the Spatial Resolution of Soft Tactile Sensors Based on Electrical Resistance Tomography

Lee, H., Park, K., Kim, J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 5411-5417, Montreal, Canada, May 2019, Hyosang Lee and Kyungseo Park contributed equally to this publication (inproceedings)

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Haptipedia: Accelerating Haptic Device Discovery to Support Interaction & Engineering Design
Haptipedia: Accelerating Haptic Device Discovery to Support Interaction & Engineering Design

Seifi, H., Fazlollahi, F., Oppermann, M., Sastrillo, J. A., Ip, J., Agrawal, A., Park, G., Kuchenbecker, K. J., MacLean, K. E.

In Proceedings of the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), Glasgow, Scotland, May 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Creating haptic experiences often entails inventing, modifying, or selecting specialized hardware. However, experience designers are rarely engineers, and 30 years of haptic inventions are buried in a fragmented literature that describes devices mechanically rather than by potential purpose. We conceived of Haptipedia to unlock this trove of examples: Haptipedia presents a device corpus for exploration through metadata that matter to both device and experience designers. It is a taxonomy of device attributes that go beyond physical description to capture potential utility, applied to a growing database of 105 grounded force-feedback devices, and accessed through a public visualization that links utility to morphology. Haptipedia's design was driven by both systematic review of the haptic device literature and rich input from diverse haptic designers. We describe Haptipedia's reception (including hopes it will redefine device reporting standards) and our plans for its sustainability through community participation.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


Improving Haptic Adjective Recognition with Unsupervised Feature Learning
Improving Haptic Adjective Recognition with Unsupervised Feature Learning

Richardson, B. A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), pages: 3804-3810, Montreal, Canada, May 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Humans can form an impression of how a new object feels simply by touching its surfaces with the densely innervated skin of the fingertips. Many haptics researchers have recently been working to endow robots with similar levels of haptic intelligence, but these efforts almost always employ hand-crafted features, which are brittle, and concrete tasks, such as object recognition. We applied unsupervised feature learning methods, specifically K-SVD and Spatio-Temporal Hierarchical Matching Pursuit (ST-HMP), to rich multi-modal haptic data from a diverse dataset. We then tested the learned features on 19 more abstract binary classification tasks that center on haptic adjectives such as smooth and squishy. The learned features proved superior to traditional hand-crafted features by a large margin, almost doubling the average F1 score across all adjectives. Additionally, particular exploratory procedures (EPs) and sensor channels were found to support perception of certain haptic adjectives, underlining the need for diverse interactions and multi-modal haptic data.

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link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Accurate Vision-based Manipulation through Contact Reasoning
Accurate Vision-based Manipulation through Contact Reasoning

Kloss, A., Bauza, M., Wu, J., Tenenbaum, J. B., Rodriguez, A., Bohg, J.

In International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2019 (inproceedings) Accepted

Abstract
Planning contact interactions is one of the core challenges of many robotic tasks. Optimizing contact locations while taking dynamics into account is computationally costly and in only partially observed environments, executing contact-based tasks often suffers from low accuracy. We present an approach that addresses these two challenges for the problem of vision-based manipulation. First, we propose to disentangle contact from motion optimization. Thereby, we improve planning efficiency by focusing computation on promising contact locations. Second, we use a hybrid approach for perception and state estimation that combines neural networks with a physically meaningful state representation. In simulation and real-world experiments on the task of planar pushing, we show that our method is more efficient and achieves a higher manipulation accuracy than previous vision-based approaches.

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Video link (url) [BibTex]

Video link (url) [BibTex]


Learning Latent Space Dynamics for Tactile Servoing
Learning Latent Space Dynamics for Tactile Servoing

Sutanto, G., Ratliff, N., Sundaralingam, B., Chebotar, Y., Su, Z., Handa, A., Fox, D.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2019, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2019 (inproceedings) Accepted

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pdf video [BibTex]

pdf video [BibTex]


Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp
Leveraging Contact Forces for Learning to Grasp

Merzic, H., Bogdanovic, M., Kappler, D., Righetti, L., Bohg, J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2019, IEEE, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2019 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Grasping objects under uncertainty remains an open problem in robotics research. This uncertainty is often due to noisy or partial observations of the object pose or shape. To enable a robot to react appropriately to unforeseen effects, it is crucial that it continuously takes sensor feedback into account. While visual feedback is important for inferring a grasp pose and reaching for an object, contact feedback offers valuable information during manipulation and grasp acquisition. In this paper, we use model-free deep reinforcement learning to synthesize control policies that exploit contact sensing to generate robust grasping under uncertainty. We demonstrate our approach on a multi-fingered hand that exhibits more complex finger coordination than the commonly used two- fingered grippers. We conduct extensive experiments in order to assess the performance of the learned policies, with and without contact sensing. While it is possible to learn grasping policies without contact sensing, our results suggest that contact feedback allows for a significant improvement of grasping robustness under object pose uncertainty and for objects with a complex shape.

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video arXiv [BibTex]

video arXiv [BibTex]


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Bimanual Wrist-Squeezing Haptic Feedback Changes Speed-Force Tradeoff in Robotic Surgery Training

Cao, E., Machaca, S., Bernard, T., Wolfinger, B., Patterson, Z., Chi, A., Adrales, G. L., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Brown, J. D.

Extended abstract presented as an ePoster at the Annual Meeting of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES), Baltimore, USA, April 2019 (misc) Accepted

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Interactive Augmented Reality for Robot-Assisted Surgery

Forte, M. P., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Extended abstract presented as an Emerging Technology ePoster at the Annual Meeting of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES), Baltimore, Maryland, USA, April 2019 (misc) Accepted

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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A Design Tool for Therapeutic Social-Physical Human-Robot Interactions

Mohan, M., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Workshop paper (3 pages) presented at the HRI Pioneers Workshop, Daegu, South Korea, March 2019 (misc)

Abstract
We live in an aging society; social-physical human-robot interaction has the potential to keep our elderly adults healthy by motivating them to exercise. After summarizing prior work, this paper proposes a tool that can be used to design exercise and therapy interactions to be performed by an upper-body humanoid robot. The interaction design tool comprises a teleoperation system that transmits the operator’s arm motions, head motions and facial expression along with an interface to monitor and assess the motion of the user interacting with the robot. We plan to use this platform to create dynamic and intuitive exercise interactions.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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How Does It Feel to Clap Hands with a Robot?

Fitter, N. T., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

International Journal of Social Robotics, 2019 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Future robots may need lighthearted physical interaction capabilities to connect with people in meaningful ways. To begin exploring how users perceive playful human–robot hand-to-hand interaction, we conducted a study with 20 participants. Each user played simple hand-clapping games with the Rethink Robotics Baxter Research Robot during a 1-h-long session involving 24 randomly ordered conditions that varied in facial reactivity, physical reactivity, arm stiffness, and clapping tempo. Survey data and experiment recordings demonstrate that this interaction is viable: all users successfully completed the experiment and mentioned enjoying at least one game without prompting. Hand-clapping tempo was highly salient to users, and human-like robot errors were more widely accepted than mechanical errors. Furthermore, perceptions of Baxter varied in the following statistically significant ways: facial reactivity increased the robot’s perceived pleasantness and energeticness; physical reactivity decreased pleasantness, energeticness, and dominance; higher arm stiffness increased safety and decreased dominance; and faster tempo increased energeticness and increased dominance. These findings can motivate and guide roboticists who want to design social–physical human–robot interactions.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Toward Expert-Sourcing of a Haptic Device Repository
Toward Expert-Sourcing of a Haptic Device Repository

Seifi, H., Ip, J., Agrawal, A., Kuchenbecker, K. J., MacLean, K. E.

Glasgow, UK, 2019 (misc)

Abstract
Haptipedia is an online taxonomy, database, and visualization that aims to accelerate ideation of new haptic devices and interactions in human-computer interaction, virtual reality, haptics, and robotics. The current version of Haptipedia (105 devices) was created through iterative design, data entry, and evaluation by our team of experts. Next, we aim to greatly increase the number of devices and keep Haptipedia updated by soliciting data entry and verification from haptics experts worldwide.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


Automated Generation of Reactive Programs from Human Demonstration for Orchestration of Robot Behaviors
Automated Generation of Reactive Programs from Human Demonstration for Orchestration of Robot Behaviors

Berenz, V., Bjelic, A., Mainprice, J.

ArXiv, 2019 (article)

Abstract
Social robots or collaborative robots that have to interact with people in a reactive way are difficult to program. This difficulty stems from the different skills required by the programmer: to provide an engaging user experience the behavior must include a sense of aesthetics while robustly operating in a continuously changing environment. The Playful framework allows composing such dynamic behaviors using a basic set of action and perception primitives. Within this framework, a behavior is encoded as a list of declarative statements corresponding to high-level sensory-motor couplings. To facilitate non-expert users to program such behaviors, we propose a Learning from Demonstration (LfD) technique that maps motion capture of humans directly to a Playful script. The approach proceeds by identifying the sensory-motor couplings that are active at each step using the Viterbi path in a Hidden Markov Model (HMM). Given these activation patterns, binary classifiers called evaluations are trained to associate activations to sensory data. Modularity is increased by clustering the sensory-motor couplings, leading to a hierarchical tree structure. The novelty of the proposed approach is that the learned behavior is encoded not in terms of trajectories in a task space, but as couplings between sensory information and high-level motor actions. This provides advantages in terms of behavioral generalization and reactivity displayed by the robot.

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Support Video link (url) [BibTex]

2011


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Learning, planning, and control for quadruped locomotion over challenging terrain

Kalakrishnan, Mrinal, Buchli, Jonas, Pastor, Peter, Mistry, Michael, Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 30(2):236-258, February 2011 (article)

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[BibTex]

2011


[BibTex]


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STOMP: Stochastic trajectory optimization for motion planning

Kalakrishnan, M., Chitta, S., Theodorou, E., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Shanghai, China, May 9-13, 2011, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a new approach to motion planning using a stochastic trajectory optimization framework. The approach relies on generating noisy trajectories to explore the space around an initial (possibly infeasible) trajectory, which are then combined to produced an updated trajectory with lower cost. A cost function based on a combination of obstacle and smoothness cost is optimized in each iteration. No gradient information is required for the particular optimization algorithm that we use and so general costs for which derivatives may not be available (e.g. costs corresponding to constraints and motor torques) can be included in the cost function. We demonstrate the approach both in simulation and on a dual-arm mobile manipulation system for unconstrained and constrained tasks. We experimentally show that the stochastic nature of STOMP allows it to overcome local minima that gradient-based optimizers like CHOMP can get stuck in.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Path Integral Control and Bounded Rationality

Braun, D. A., Ortega, P. A., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In IEEE Symposium on Adaptive Dynamic Programming And Reinforcement Learning (ADPRL), 2011, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Path integral methods [7], [15],[1] have recently been shown to be applicable to a very general class of optimal control problems. Here we examine the path integral formalism from a decision-theoretic point of view, since an optimal controller can always be regarded as an instance of a perfectly rational decision-maker that chooses its actions so as to maximize its expected utility [8]. The problem with perfect rationality is, however, that finding optimal actions is often very difficult due to prohibitive computational resource costs that are not taken into account. In contrast, a bounded rational decision-maker has only limited resources and therefore needs to strike some compromise between the desired utility and the required resource costs [14]. In particular, we suggest an information-theoretic measure of resource costs that can be derived axiomatically [11]. As a consequence we obtain a variational principle for choice probabilities that trades off maximizing a given utility criterion and avoiding resource costs that arise due to deviating from initially given default choice probabilities. The resulting bounded rational policies are in general probabilistic. We show that the solutions found by the path integral formalism are such bounded rational policies. Furthermore, we show that the same formalism generalizes to discrete control problems, leading to linearly solvable bounded rational control policies in the case of Markov systems. Importantly, Bellman?s optimality principle is not presupposed by this variational principle, but it can be derived as a limit case. This suggests that the information- theoretic formalization of bounded rationality might serve as a general principle in control design that unifies a number of recently reported approximate optimal control methods both in the continuous and discrete domain.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Skill learning and task outcome prediction for manipulation

Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Chitta, S., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Shanghai, China, May 9-13, 2011, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Learning complex motor skills for real world tasks is a hard problem in robotic manipulation that often requires painstaking manual tuning and design by a human expert. In this work, we present a Reinforcement Learning based approach to acquiring new motor skills from demonstration. Our approach allows the robot to learn fine manipulation skills and significantly improve its success rate and skill level starting from a possibly coarse demonstration. Our approach aims to incorporate task domain knowledge, where appropriate, by working in a space consistent with the constraints of a specific task. In addition, we also present an approach to using sensor feedback to learn a predictive model of the task outcome. This allows our system to learn the proprioceptive sensor feedback needed to monitor subsequent executions of the task online and abort execution in the event of predicted failure. We illustrate our approach using two example tasks executed with the PR2 dual-arm robot: a straight and accurate pool stroke and a box flipping task using two chopsticks as tools.

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link (url) Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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An Iterative Path Integral Stochastic Optimal Control Approach for Learning Robotic Tasks

Theodorou, E., Stulp, F., Buchli, J., Schaal, S.

In Proceedings of the 18th World Congress of the International Federation of Automatic Control, 2011, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recent work on path integral stochastic optimal control theory Theodorou et al. (2010a); Theodorou (2011) has shown promising results in planning and control of nonlinear systems in high dimensional state spaces. The path integral control framework relies on the transformation of the nonlinear Hamilton Jacobi Bellman (HJB) partial differential equation (PDE) into a linear PDE and the approximation of its solution via the use of the Feynman Kac lemma. In this work, we are reviewing the generalized version of path integral stochastic optimal control formalism Theodorou et al. (2010a), used for optimal control and planing of stochastic dynamical systems with state dependent control and diffusion matrices. Moreover we present the iterative path integral control approach, the so called Policy Improvement with Path Integrals or (PI2 ) which is capable of scaling in high dimensional robotic control problems. Furthermore we present a convergence analysis of the proposed algorithm and we apply the proposed framework to a variety of robotic tasks. Finally with the goal to perform locomotion the iterative path integral control is applied for learning nonlinear limit cycle attractors with adjustable land scape.

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Bayesian robot system identification with input and output noise

Ting, J., D’Souza, A., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 24(1):99-108, 2011, clmc (article)

Abstract
For complex robots such as humanoids, model-based control is highly beneficial for accurate tracking while keeping negative feedback gains low for compliance. However, in such multi degree-of-freedom lightweight systems, conventional identification of rigid body dynamics models using CAD data and actuator models is inaccurate due to unknown nonlinear robot dynamic effects. An alternative method is data-driven parameter estimation, but significant noise in measured and inferred variables affects it adversely. Moreover, standard estimation procedures may give physically inconsistent results due to unmodeled nonlinearities or insufficiently rich data. This paper addresses these problems, proposing a Bayesian system identification technique for linear or piecewise linear systems. Inspired by Factor Analysis regression, we develop a computationally efficient variational Bayesian regression algorithm that is robust to ill-conditioned data, automatically detects relevant features, and identifies input and output noise. We evaluate our approach on rigid body parameter estimation for various robotic systems, achieving an error of up to three times lower than other state-of-the-art machine learning methods

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning variable impedance control

Buchli, J., Stulp, F., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 2011, clmc (article)

Abstract
One of the hallmarks of the performance, versatility, and robustness of biological motor control is the ability to adapt the impedance of the overall biomechanical system to different task requirements and stochastic disturbances. A transfer of this principle to robotics is desirable, for instance to enable robots to work robustly and safely in everyday human environments. It is, however, not trivial to derive variable impedance controllers for practical high degree-of-freedom (DOF) robotic tasks. In this contribution, we accomplish such variable impedance control with the reinforcement learning (RL) algorithm PISq ({f P}olicy {f I}mprovement with {f P}ath {f I}ntegrals). PISq is a model-free, sampling based learning method derived from first principles of stochastic optimal control. The PISq algorithm requires no tuning of algorithmic parameters besides the exploration noise. The designer can thus fully focus on cost function design to specify the task. From the viewpoint of robotics, a particular useful property of PISq is that it can scale to problems of many DOFs, so that reinforcement learning on real robotic systems becomes feasible. We sketch the PISq algorithm and its theoretical properties, and how it is applied to gain scheduling for variable impedance control. We evaluate our approach by presenting results on several simulated and real robots. We consider tasks involving accurate tracking through via-points, and manipulation tasks requiring physical contact with the environment. In these tasks, the optimal strategy requires both tuning of a reference trajectory emph{and} the impedance of the end-effector. The results show that we can use path integral based reinforcement learning not only for planning but also to derive variable gain feedback controllers in realistic scenarios. Thus, the power of variable impedance control is made available to a wide variety of robotic systems and practical applications.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Iterative path integral stochastic optimal control: Theory and applications to motor control

Theodorou, E. A.

University of Southern California, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 2011 (phdthesis)

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Learning of grasp selection based on shape-templates

Herzog, A.

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, 2011 (mastersthesis)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Understanding haptics by evolving mechatronic systems

Loeb, G. E., Tsianos, G.A., Fishel, J.A., Wettels, N., Schaal, S.

Progress in Brain Research, 192, pages: 129, 2011 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Movement segmentation using a primitive library

Meier, F., Theodorou, E., Stulp, F., Schaal, S.

In IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2011), Sept. 25-30, San Francisco, CA, 2011, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Segmenting complex movements into a sequence of primitives remains a difficult problem with many applications in the robotics and vision communities. In this work, we show how the movement segmentation problem can be reduced to a sequential movement recognition problem. To this end, we reformulate the orig-inal Dynamic Movement Primitive (DMP) formulation as a linear dynamical sys-tem with control inputs. Based on this new formulation, we develop an Expecta-tion-Maximization algorithm to estimate the duration and goal position of a par-tially observed trajectory. With the help of this algorithm and the assumption that a library of movement primitives is present, we present a movement seg-mentation framework. We illustrate the usefulness of the new DMP formulation on the two applications of online movement recognition and movement segmen-tation.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning Force Control Policies for Compliant Manipulation

Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 4639-4644, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Developing robots capable of fine manipulation skills is of major importance in order to build truly assistive robots. These robots need to be compliant in their actuation and control in order to operate safely in human environments. Manipulation tasks imply complex contact interactions with the external world, and involve reasoning about the forces and torques to be applied. Planning under contact conditions is usually impractical due to computational complexity, and a lack of precise dynamics models of the environment. We present an approach to acquiring manipulation skills on compliant robots through reinforcement learning. The initial position control policy for manipulation is initialized through kinesthetic demonstration. We augment this policy with a force/torque profile to be controlled in combination with the position trajectories. We use the Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2) algorithm to learn these force/torque profiles by optimizing a cost function that measures task success. We demonstrate our approach on the Barrett WAM robot arm equipped with a 6-DOF force/torque sensor on two different manipulation tasks: opening a door with a lever door handle, and picking up a pen off the table. We show that the learnt force control policies allow successful, robust execution of the tasks.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Control of legged robots with optimal distribution of contact forces

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In 2011 11th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 318-324, IEEE, Bled, Slovenia, 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The development of agile and safe humanoid robots require controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically, the control of contact interaction is of crucial importance for robots that will actively interact with their environment. Model-based controllers such as inverse dynamics or operational space control are very appealing as they offer both high tracking performance and compliance. However, while widely used for fully actuated systems such as manipulators, they are not yet standard controllers for legged robots such as humanoids. Indeed such robots are fundamentally different from manipulators as they are underactuated due to their floating-base and subject to switching contact constraints. In this paper we present an inverse dynamics controller for legged robots that use torque redundancy to create an optimal distribution of contact constraints. The resulting controller is able to minimize, given a desired motion, any quadratic cost of the contact constraints at each instant of time. In particular we show how this can be used to minimize tangential forces during locomotion, therefore significantly improving the locomotion of legged robots on difficult terrains. In addition to the theoretical result, we present simulations of a humanoid and a quadruped robot, as well as experiments on a real quadruped robot that demonstrate the advantages of the controller.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Motion Primitive Goals for Robust Manipulation

Stulp, F., Theodorou, E., Kalakrishnan, M., Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 325-331, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Applying model-free reinforcement learning to manipulation remains challenging for several reasons. First, manipulation involves physical contact, which causes discontinuous cost functions. Second, in manipulation, the end-point of the movement must be chosen carefully, as it represents a grasp which must be adapted to the pose and shape of the object. Finally, there is uncertainty in the object pose, and even the most carefully planned movement may fail if the object is not at the expected position. To address these challenges we 1) present a simplified, computationally more efficient version of our model-free reinforcement learning algorithm PI2; 2) extend PI2 so that it simultaneously learns shape parameters and goal parameters of motion primitives; 3) use shape and goal learning to acquire motion primitives that are robust to object pose uncertainty. We evaluate these contributions on a manipulation platform consisting of a 7-DOF arm with a 4-DOF hand.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Inverse Dynamics Control of Floating-Base Robots with External Constraints: a Unified View

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In 2011 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 1085-1090, IEEE, Shanghai, China, 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Inverse dynamics controllers and operational space controllers have proved to be very efficient for compliant control of fully actuated robots such as fixed base manipulators. However legged robots such as humanoids are inherently different as they are underactuated and subject to switching external contact constraints. Recently several methods have been proposed to create inverse dynamics controllers and operational space controllers for these robots. In an attempt to compare these different approaches, we develop a general framework for inverse dynamics control and show that these methods lead to very similar controllers. We are then able to greatly simplify recent whole-body controllers based on operational space approaches using kinematic projections, bringing them closer to efficient practical implementations. We also generalize these controllers such that they can be optimal under an arbitrary quadratic cost in the commands.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Online movement adaptation based on previous sensor experiences

Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Kalakrishnan, M., Schaal, S.

In 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 365-371, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Personal robots can only become widespread if they are capable of safely operating among humans. In uncertain and highly dynamic environments such as human households, robots need to be able to instantly adapt their behavior to unforseen events. In this paper, we propose a general framework to achieve very contact-reactive motions for robotic grasping and manipulation. Associating stereotypical movements to particular tasks enables our system to use previous sensor experiences as a predictive model for subsequent task executions. We use dynamical systems, named Dynamic Movement Primitives (DMPs), to learn goal-directed behaviors from demonstration. We exploit their dynamic properties by coupling them with the measured and predicted sensor traces. This feedback loop allows for online adaptation of the movement plan. Our system can create a rich set of possible motions that account for external perturbations and perception uncertainty to generate truly robust behaviors. As an example, we present an application to grasping with the WAM robot arm.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning to grasp under uncertainty

Stulp, F., Theodorou, E., Buchli, J., Schaal, S.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2011 IEEE International Conference on, Shanghai, China, May 9-13, 2011, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present an approach that enables robots to learn motion primitives that are robust towards state estimation uncertainties. During reaching and preshaping, the robot learns to use fine manipulation strategies to maneuver the object into a pose at which closing the hand to perform the grasp is more likely to succeed. In contrast, common assumptions in grasp planning and motion planning for reaching are that these tasks can be performed independently, and that the robot has perfect knowledge of the pose of the objects in the environment. We implement our approach using Dynamic Movement Primitives and the probabilistic model-free reinforcement learning algorithm Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2 ). The cost function that PI2 optimizes is a simple boolean that penalizes failed grasps. The key to acquiring robust motion primitives is to sample the actual pose of the object from a distribution that represents the state estimation uncertainty. During learning, the robot will thus optimize the chance of grasping an object from this distribution, rather than at one specific pose. In our empirical evaluation, we demonstrate how the motion primitives become more robust when grasping simple cylindrical objects, as well as more complex, non-convex objects. We also investigate how well the learned motion primitives generalize towards new object positions and other state estimation uncertainty distributions.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

2010


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Reinforcement learning of full-body humanoid motor skills

Stulp, F., Buchli, J., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

In Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), 2010 10th IEEE-RAS International Conference on, pages: 405-410, December 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Applying reinforcement learning to humanoid robots is challenging because humanoids have a large number of degrees of freedom and state and action spaces are continuous. Thus, most reinforcement learning algorithms would become computationally infeasible and require a prohibitive amount of trials to explore such high-dimensional spaces. In this paper, we present a probabilistic reinforcement learning approach, which is derived from the framework of stochastic optimal control and path integrals. The algorithm, called Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2), has a surprisingly simple form, has no open tuning parameters besides the exploration noise, is model-free, and performs numerically robustly in high dimensional learning problems. We demonstrate how PI2 is able to learn full-body motor skills on a 34-DOF humanoid robot. To demonstrate the generality of our approach, we also apply PI2 in the context of variable impedance control, where both planned trajectories and gain schedules for each joint are optimized simultaneously.

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link (url) [BibTex]

2010


link (url) [BibTex]


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Relative Entropy Policy Search

Peters, J., Mülling, K., Altun, Y.

In Proceedings of the Twenty-Fourth National Conference on Artificial Intelligence, pages: 1607-1612, (Editors: Fox, M. , D. Poole), AAAI Press, Menlo Park, CA, USA, Twenty-Fourth National Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-10), July 2010 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Policy search is a successful approach to reinforcement learning. However, policy improvements often result in the loss of information. Hence, it has been marred by premature convergence and implausible solutions. As first suggested in the context of covariant policy gradients (Bagnell and Schneider 2003), many of these problems may be addressed by constraining the information loss. In this paper, we continue this path of reasoning and suggest the Relative Entropy Policy Search (REPS) method. The resulting method differs significantly from previous policy gradient approaches and yields an exact update step. It works well on typical reinforcement learning benchmark problems.

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PDF Web [BibTex]

PDF Web [BibTex]


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Reinforcement learning of motor skills in high dimensions: A path integral approach

Theodorou, E., Buchli, J., Schaal, S.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2010 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 2397-2403, May 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning (RL) is one of the most general approaches to learning control. Its applicability to complex motor systems, however, has been largely impossible so far due to the computational difficulties that reinforcement learning encounters in high dimensional continuous state-action spaces. In this paper, we derive a novel approach to RL for parameterized control policies based on the framework of stochastic optimal control with path integrals. While solidly grounded in optimal control theory and estimation theory, the update equations for learning are surprisingly simple and have no danger of numerical instabilities as neither matrix inversions nor gradient learning rates are required. Empirical evaluations demonstrate significant performance improvements over gradient-based policy learning and scalability to high-dimensional control problems. Finally, a learning experiment on a robot dog illustrates the functionality of our algorithm in a real-world scenario. We believe that our new algorithm, Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2), offers currently one of the most efficient, numerically robust, and easy to implement algorithms for RL in robotics.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Inverse dynamics control of floating base systems using orthogonal decomposition

Mistry, M., Buchli, J., Schaal, S.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2010 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 3406-3412, May 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
Model-based control methods can be used to enable fast, dexterous, and compliant motion of robots without sacrificing control accuracy. However, implementing such techniques on floating base robots, e.g., humanoids and legged systems, is non-trivial due to under-actuation, dynamically changing constraints from the environment, and potentially closed loop kinematics. In this paper, we show how to compute the analytically correct inverse dynamics torques for model-based control of sufficiently constrained floating base rigid-body systems, such as humanoid robots with one or two feet in contact with the environment. While our previous inverse dynamics approach relied on an estimation of contact forces to compute an approximate inverse dynamics solution, here we present an analytically correct solution by using an orthogonal decomposition to project the robot dynamics onto a reduced dimensional space, independent of contact forces. We demonstrate the feasibility and robustness of our approach on a simulated floating base bipedal humanoid robot and an actual robot dog locomoting over rough terrain.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Fast, robust quadruped locomotion over challenging terrain

Kalakrishnan, M., Buchli, J., Pastor, P., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2010 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 2665-2670, May 2010, clmc (inproceedings)

Abstract
We present a control architecture for fast quadruped locomotion over rough terrain. We approach the problem by decomposing it into many sub-systems, in which we apply state-of-the-art learning, planning, optimization and control techniques to achieve robust, fast locomotion. Unique features of our control strategy include: (1) a system that learns optimal foothold choices from expert demonstration using terrain templates, (2) a body trajectory optimizer based on the Zero-Moment Point (ZMP) stability criterion, and (3) a floating-base inverse dynamics controller that, in conjunction with force control, allows for robust, compliant locomotion over unperceived obstacles. We evaluate the performance of our controller by testing it on the LittleDog quadruped robot, over a wide variety of rough terrain of varying difficulty levels. We demonstrate the generalization ability of this controller by presenting test results from an independent external test team on terrains that have never been shown to us.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Policy learning algorithmis for motor learning (Algorithmen zum automatischen Erlernen von Motorfähigkigkeiten)

Peters, J., Kober, J., Schaal, S.

Automatisierungstechnik, 58(12):688-694, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
Robot learning methods which allow au- tonomous robots to adapt to novel situations have been a long standing vision of robotics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive sciences. However, to date, learning techniques have yet to ful- fill this promise as only few methods manage to scale into the high-dimensional domains of manipulator robotics, or even the new upcoming trend of humanoid robotics. If possible, scaling was usually only achieved in precisely pre-structured domains. In this paper, we investigate the ingredients for a general ap- proach policy learning with the goal of an application to motor skill refinement in order to get one step closer towards human- like performance. For doing so, we study two major components for such an approach, i. e., firstly, we study policy learning algo- rithms which can be applied in the general setting of motor skill learning, and, secondly, we study a theoretically well-founded general approach to representing the required control structu- res for task representation and execution.

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link (url) [BibTex]


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A Bayesian approach to nonlinear parameter identification for rigid-body dynamics

Ting, J., DSouza, A., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
For complex robots such as humanoids, model-based control is highly beneficial for accurate tracking while keeping negative feedback gains low for compliance. However, in such multi degree-of-freedom lightweight systems, conventional identification of rigid body dynamics models using CAD data and actuator models is inaccurate due to unknown nonlinear robot dynamic effects. An alternative method is data-driven parameter estimation, but significant noise in measured and inferred variables affects it adversely. Moreover, standard estimation procedures may give physically inconsistent results due to unmodeled nonlinearities or insufficiently rich data. This paper addresses these problems, proposing a Bayesian system identification technique for linear or piecewise linear systems. Inspired by Factor Analysis regression, we develop a computationally efficient variational Bayesian regression algorithm that is robust to ill-conditioned data, automatically detects relevant features, and identifies input and output noise. We evaluate our approach on rigid body parameter estimation for various robotic systems, achieving an error of up to three times lower than other state-of-the-art machine learning methods.

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link (url) [BibTex]


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A first optimal control solution for a complex, nonlinear, tendon driven neuromuscular finger model

Theodorou, E. A., Todorov, E., Valero-Cuevas, F.

Proceedings of the ASME 2010 Summer Bioengineering Conference August 30-September 2, 2010, Naples, Florida, USA, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
In this work we present the first constrained stochastic op- timal feedback controller applied to a fully nonlinear, tendon driven index finger model. Our model also takes into account an extensor mechanism, and muscle force-length and force-velocity properties. We show this feedback controller is robust to noise and perturbations to the dynamics, while successfully handling the nonlinearities and high dimensionality of the system. By ex- tending prior methods, we are able to approximate physiological realism by ensuring positivity of neural commands and tendon tensions at all timesthus can, for the first time, use the optimal control framework to predict biologically plausible tendon tensions for a nonlinear neuromuscular finger model. METHODS 1 Muscle Model The rigid-body triple pendulum finger model with slightly viscous joints is actuated by Hill-type muscle models. Joint torques are generated by the seven muscles of the index fin-

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Locally weighted regression for control

Ting, J., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

In Encyclopedia of Machine Learning, pages: 613-624, (Editors: Sammut, C.;Webb, G. I.), Springer, 2010, clmc (inbook)

Abstract
This is article addresses two topics: learning control and locally weighted regression.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]